Teaching Computer-Assisted Content Analysis with Yoshikoder

Last blog post I discussed the second project in my applied research class, a sentiment analysis of Tweets using Yoshikoder - a free computer-assisted content analysis program from Harvard.

As promised, I want to share my assignment, and my handout for students that teaches them how to use Yoshikoder. Before we do the project, however, I do a brief in class activity to get students learning how to use Yoshikoder. So let’s start there for today’s post. And next post, I’ll share the assignment itself.

PART 1: THE SET UP

What I like to do, is present the problem to the students via the project assignment. Then, we go back and start learning what we’d need to do to solve the problem. So, after lecturing about what sentiment analysis is and why it is important, I get students introduced first to the idea of constructing a coding sheet for keywords by taking a list of keywords and adding them to categories.

First, we talk about the idea in class, and I show them some simple examples, like: If I wanted to code a sample for the presence of “sunshine” – what words would I need? Students brainstorm things like  start, sun, sunny, sunshine, etc., etc.

We discuss the importance of mutual exclusivity, being exhaustive, etc.

I show an example from my dissertation which looked at agenda setting topics on Twitter.

On the class day before I introduce Yoshikoder to the class, students do a practice assignment where I give them a list of random terms related to politics and elections. They then have to create “positive” and “negative” content categories using the terms. The terms aren’t necessarily well fit for this exercise, which gets them thinking a bit… They then hand code a sample of Tweets I provide about two different politicians. I tend to use the most recent election. So, in this case Obama and Romney. They are frustrated by having to hand code these Tweets – but a little trick is to do a search for the exact phrases in the Tweet files on the computer and they are done fairly quickly. Ok, so on the next class period:

1) Practice with Yoshikoder We do the same basic task, but this time they learn to program their “positive” and “negative” categories into Yoshikoder. They then load the Tweets (which I have saved as a txt file) and analyze them for the presence of their positive and negative content categories. This is a great point to stop and have students assess the reliability between what they hand coded and what the computer coded. Often, there will be discrepancies. And this makes for a great opportunity for discussion.

Here is the activity that I use in class. I also provide Tweets that I’ve downloaded using the search terms for the politician/candidate I’m using in the activity (e.g., Obama; Romney) in plain text format so Yoshikoder can read it. Also, see the below handout which I provide students to show them how to use Yoshikoder and how to program, and run the analyses I just described.

As I mentioned above, I create a handout that I like to give students that explains the different functionalities of Yoshikoder and how to run the analyses. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, I like to provide handouts. And the one below isn’t one of my more elaborate handouts. But it provides a quick overview with some screen shots to show what buttons need to be clicked. This is super helpful if you are trying to learn Yoshikoder, or want to use it alongside the activity (discussed in this post or the project discussed in my last post, and which I will provide in my next blog post).


Enjoy! .

If you’d like to learn more about using Yoshikoder, I found this great tutorial:

- Cheers! Matt

Applied Research Class: Sentiment Analysis Project Reflection

I began this semester with the intention of blogging a bit about my applied research class. I provided an overview of it and a copy of the syllabus on an earlier post. But since writing that post, I’ve yet to do a follow up… until now.

First, let me say that more and more I am trying to decrease my lecturing and spend more time in class with hands on learning, having my students learn by doing rather than just listening - sort of like the flipped classroom Gary Schirr has been discussing recently on his blog.   So this class is really pushing in class projects and experiential learning. Following this approach, in order to introduce students to research, I provided students with the instructions and a lot of structure for their first two projects.

I want to use our second research project as an example. Then, I’ll talk about the pros and cons. The second project was a sentiment analysis of Tweets about a brand I chose and a (realistic but not necessarily real) scenario.

My goals with this project were to teach students:

  1. About computer-assisted content analysis. We focused on how it is different from a hand-coded quantitative content analysis (which was the focus of our first project). And its strengths and weaknesses.
  2. How to do a basic computer-assisted content analysis using Yoshikoder, an easy to use, free App that works on Mac and PC. So my students can use it at home if needed!
  3. About sentiment analysis – what it is, why it is used by organizations to evaluate the online conversation about their brand, and its strengths and weaknesses.
  4. How to write up a research report (In the first project, I provided the project overview and requested results and discussion. In the second project, I added a literature review and methods section, and had them write the research objective and research question).

Why I chose to do this project this way: A number of social media analytics tools today are offering sentiment analysis.  There are also sites like socialmention.com that will provide you with a free sentiment analysis of a search term. But how are these analyses conducted? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Are they reliable? Do they mean anything at all? And what do we need to be careful of before accepting them, and thus drawing inferences from them?

So what I wanted my students to do, was to SEE how a sentiment analysis would be conducted by some of those high-price (or no price!) analytic tools. In other words, I want my students to get their hands dirty as opposed to allowing some distant and hidden algorithm to do the analysis for them. I believe gaining hands on experience with this project provides students a more critical lens through which to see and evaluate a sentiment analysis of social media messages.

The Set Up: I provide in the assignment: The Situation or Problem / Campaign goals and objectives (of an imaginary campaign that is ongoing or happened) / benchmarks / KPIs. In this case, the situation had to do with a popular online retail brand and rising customer complains and dissatisfaction as the brand has grown beyond its core base of loyal customers in recent years.

I provide students with the sample of about 1000 Tweets I downloaded and formatted to play nicely with Yoshikoder. The sample comprises of mentions of the brand. This ensures students are all looking at the same dataset, and streamlines (or eliminates I should say) the data collection process to help students focus on other elements of the assignment. For the sentiment analysis,

I rely on the AFINN dictionary, which was designed for sentiment analysis of microblogs. Students learn about what the AFINN is and a little about how linguistic analysis dictionaries are created through research. Students then analyze the Twitter dataset using the AFINN dictionary to determine the sentiment scores. There is no fancy stats being done here. By checking the sentiment analysis output, they simply determine if their KPI (which was a % of positive Tweets about the brand) was met. In this case, the result they are looking for is a % – so simple division. Not scary at all, no SPSS training needed (that comes with a later project).

They also look at the valence of the sentiment (with a range of + or -5) and explore the meaning of that. The students use this information, along with class lecture, other exercises on how to write research reports, etc., to produce their project #2 report.

Again, to reiterate an important point, we discuss the benefits and of this analysis as well as its real weaknesses. Students always bring up the fact that the results lack context – what if someone used the word “bad” meaning good? What about sarcasm? I show them how to use Yoshikoder to look at Keywords in context as a way of addressing this.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of This (and these types of) Projects As I said above,  I am really trying to move away from lecture in favor of experiential learning. Here are some things I’ve noticed. Some may be benefits, others drawbacks, and others a bit of both…

  • The focus on this project is not on the stats or the analysis and I provide a lot of the needed information – so it makes for a good ‘getting your feet wet’ project that teaches students other important elements of research.
  • It would be nice to teach them more advanced methods of analysis – but I do cover that a bit more later in the semester.
  • Students learn through their mistakes and from my feedback as opposed to me paving the way for them and simply asking them to drive down the smooth road.
  • I provide a LOT of handouts on how to write different sections of a research report, etc. They are detailed… sometimes too detailed and I fear students don’t read them because it is information shock.
  • Sometimes, I wish I had more time to teach them how to avoid the simple mistakes I see in their work, particularly their research reports. I say to myself, “oh man, I thought I told them how to do that.” Or, “Why didn’t you read the handout that explains how to structure this!?”
  • They likely won’t do sentiment analysis like this every again – but at least they’ll understand it!
  • They get to see the results for themselves and get a sense that they discovered the results.
  • Class time is busy – our class rushes by and we don’t always get to cover everything I want to. As a person who likes order and time management, I am having to “let go a little” and let things happen. This is helping me grow. I wonder if it is helping my students though…
  • I know I enjoy doing these sorts of projects a lot more than standing and lecturing, lecturing, lecturing about research. I feel it has made research a lot more “real” and hands on to them.

So that is my overview of the project in general, and some thoughts. It isn’t perfect but it seems to have gone well and I really enjoyed doing it. I’d love any feedback or suggestions you may have to make this the best possible experience for my students. And of course, feel free to adapt, modify, or improve upon this idea.

In an upcoming post(s), I’ll share the assignments (I want to move my documents over to SlideShare due to the pay wall on Scribd). And I will provide some basic info on how to use the Yoshikoder software.

Cheers! -Matt

photo CC by netzkobold

Teaching The Applied Communication Research Class

Metrics, Metrics, Metrics! I hear it everywhere I turn. :) More than ever, we need to be teaching our students research skills.

This Spring 2014 semester I am really excited to be teaching an applied Communication Research class!

For two years at Utah Valley University, I taught communication research with an emphasis on academic research. You can see the syllabus for that class. In that class, student groups planned, wrote up, and executed a semester long academic research study. Though many professors don’t prefer to teach this class, research is one of my favorite classes to teach. I’ve had numerous undergraduate students present their research at undergraduate research conferences and earn travel grants to do so. This is a super valuable experience for those considering grad school. Though it is very time demanding, and some feel teaching others how to conduct research is tedious, I didn’t find it that way at all. Seeing students get that “aha” moment in research and seeing them succeed makes teaching the class very rewarding.

This semester, I’ll be focusing on the more practical uses of research with an emphasis on using research for strategic purposes. This class emphasizes research across new media, legacy media, and interpersonal and online environments. Students will learn both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Our textbook is Paine’s “Measure what Matters: Online Tools for Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships.” I considered the Stacks book as well, but liked the emphasis on new media in Paine and felt her book may be more accessible to students, as students can be intimidated by a research class.

This hands on class will emphasize the following research skill sets:

  • How to conduct content analysis using a coding sheet.
  • How to conduct a computer-assisted content analysis
  • How to conduct interviews and focus groups
  • How to conduct quantitative electronic surveys using iPads

Students will work in teams to conduct 3 applied projects. The first 2 projects are real-world problems I set up and the students have to solve, and in the 3rd project they have to identify a problem, write a proposal, and execute:

  • Media placement evaluation – Answering questions such as, placement, share of voice, and whether key messages are included in media coverage and to what extent. Done via content analysis of media clippings.
  • Sentiment analysis of social media content – What are people saying about your brand on social media, and what is sentiment towards it? Done via computer-assisted content analysis of Twitter posts.
  • Audience Research – Focuses on 1 of the 5 key PR variables discussed by Stacks (2011): Confidence, credibility, relationship, reputation (which may include awareness), or trust. Students will choose 2 of the following: interviews, focus groups, and surveys.

Students will be introduced to the following software:

  • Computer-assisted content analysis (Yoshikoder will be used as it is free and easy to learn)
  • Digital Survey programming with XLS Forms
  • Open Data Kit Collector – field data survey collection software (we will be using this with the XLS forms on the free FormHub.com online form tool).
  • SPSS – We won’t get too far into SPSS due the other demands on the students time, but students will learn data entry, descriptive statistics, and correlation analysis.

I’ll be posting the syllabus for the class soon! As the semester goes along, I hope to get up a number of blog posts expanding on the class, assignments, and so forth. So check back!

Have you taught research – what do you emphasize in your class? How can I improve my class? What key skill sets should we be teaching  future practitioners?

-Cheers!

-Matt

- top photo CC by IntelFreePress

“Social Media and Mobiles” Social Media and Politics Research Published!

I hope everyone is staying warm! Here in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, we’ve got some terribly cold weather heading our way tonight!

I want to take a moment to share some news from the research side of my life in academia. :) As you know, I research social media and civic and political participation.

I’m very excited because this past Friday, my latest co-authored study was published online in the journal New Media and Society.

This study, “Social Media and Mobiles as Political Mobilization Forces for Young Adults: Examining the Moderating Role of Political Expression in Political Participation,” is an extension of our earlier articles: “More harm than good? Online media use and political disaffection among college students in the 2008 election” (2013) in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, and 2010′s Mass Communication & Society piece, ““Did social media really matter? College students’ use of online media and political decision making in the 2008 election.”

Social Media and Mobiles really seeks to further investigate the seemingly important role of online political expression (such as posting political videos to YouTube, Tweeting about politics, or posting to Facebook, etc.) in political participation. Particularly, the study looks at what role online expression may play in moderating any effects of political media use on participation. Additionally, this study investigated political smart phone app use, something not investigated in the prior two studies.

Here is the abstract:

A web survey of college students was conducted to examine whether online political expression moderates the effects of political media use on political participation. Results showed that online political expression enhanced the effects of political mobile apps, traditional offline and online media, and social media on political participation. Implications are discussed for a mobilizing role of online media in the democratic process for young adults.

You can see my other posts on social media research.

Cheers!

Matt

photo CC zoonabar

Born to Blog author talks social media challenges, opportunities, and more!

I always learn so much from our guest speakers! This week we were very fortunate to have the author of our class text, Born to Blog, Mark Schaefer (@markwschaefer) Skype with our class.


If you aren’t familiar with Mark, he is a very well-known name in the social media field, author of the popular Grow blog, a sought after consultant, and the author of Born to Blog (a book I’ve reviewed on this site and which inspired me to start this blog), and another great book I’ve read Tao of Twitter. I haven’t read his 2nd book, Return on Influence, but I hope to soon.

Here are some highlights from his presentation to this semester’s Comm 322 Social Media class.

Challenges and Opportunities in Social Media – Mark said that a major challenge today is information density. Today, we have so much information that people are reaching information paralysis. How do companies adapt and thrive in this space, with so much competing for our attention? Though not specifically about information density, the article “How the physics of social media could kill your marketing strategy” offers what I believe is a good look at the general issue.

Why do some businesses succeed on social media and others fail? Mark said it really boils down to corporate culture. Questions that come to mind after hearing Mark discuss this topic are: Does the company understand and embrace the social space? Are they agile and responsive? Do they want to adapt?

What Metrics Matter?: Since I’ve been seeking to teach my students basics of Google Analytics, the importance of, and how to track metrics, I ask guest bloggers what metrics matter to them. When asked what the key metrics he tracks are, Mark said there was one that matters: returning visitors. Are they coming back? If people come back, eventually they’ll bring their friends. Traffic doesn’t create business benefits. Returning visitors do.

We’re All Students – the media landscape shifts so rapidly, it is difficult to be an expert. We all are students. And we should strive to keep learning and adapting. As a professor, I loved hearing this reminder. I am always looking to learn, change, grow, and adapt and it is great to hear someone with as much experience as Mark talking about the importance of being a lifelong learner!

Tips and Advice for Students

The Power of Blogging for Students – Mark echoed another class guest, Nate Bagley, when he encouraged students to blog, build an audience, and create meaningful content. He said that it was a valuable tool to show potential employers that you can build and sustain an audience. He said that often times he finds students or grad students are not blogging, and was glad to see students in our class were blogging as a semester long project. I was, of course, very happy to hear this. :) So students, if you’re reading this, keep blogging!

Know Stats - Mark said education in stats is important. Increasingly, data and numbers are driving online business. You don’t have to be an expert, but you need to be able to ask questions and the ability to think critically, and choose the statistical analysis needed to answer those questions. While many students were probably grumpy to hear this, I agree completely. Stats and research methods are more important than ever.

It is not often that students get to speak directly with the author of a class text, and it meant a lot to me for students to get this wonderful opportunity. So thank you so much to Mark for being so generous with his time and knowledge!

-Cheers!

Matt

Web Roundup: Social Media Education Infographic; Zimmerman juror book deal sabotaged; Cool Professors; More!

This week flew by! Today’s Web Roundup contains a variety of articles.

 Search:

This week’s subject has been search, as on Monday I published a post on Snickers use of search in a very creative campaign - if you haven’t seen it, check it out!  In an article “Why search is much bigger than you can measure,” Chris Penn talks about some of the ways in which web traffic from search is being masked, preventing us from realizing the true volume of people who are being referred to our site from search.

Social Media and Education:

Recently, Karen Freberg (@kfreberg) Tweeted a great article with Infographics from MediaBistro on social media and education. Of course I agree with the article that: “Social media has revolutionised many industries, but it’s perhaps its impact on the classroom, and the education system as a whole, that is the most striking.” There is a lot of interesting data here. A few things that stuck out to me:

59% of students who use social networks talk about education topics online

50% of those who talk about education online talk specifically about schoolwork.

Also, there is a great infographic exploring just some of the benefits of using social media in school for teachers, students, and parents. There is also another infographic showing the uses of a variety of social media tools to enhance the classroom.

Current Events and Social Media

Twitter user swiftly sabotages Zimmerman juror’s book deal on Yahoo news - With the outpouring of emotion and opinion regarding the verdict in the George Zimmerman case, one person turned to Twitter in an attempt to block a juror in the case from getting the book deal. She succeeded. Here again we see the power of social media to rally support for/against an event. I’m not so sure such the effort could have succeeded in the pre-social media age, or at least so quickly (The article claims she succeeded in 6 hours!) The decision by the Martin Literary Agency to seek to publish a book on the controversial trial has certainly left many people shaking their head. The agency was forced to respond to social pressure and did so quickly, releasing a statement. What do you think about how the Martin Literary Agency responded to this situation?

Friday Fun!

Lastly, just for fun:

I’ve seen a lot of creative professors over the years. This photo album of “18 clues that your professor is cooler than you” shows just how witty professors can be!

If you’re an old school Internet nerd like me, you’ll appreciate this list of “Things that will make you miss the old days of the Internet” from the masters of the web list, BuzzFeed Rewind. Take a walk down memory lane with classic screen savers, AOL, the comforting sounds of dialup, and much more!

Dr. K Roundup

In personal news, my wife Kelin and I will be getting our very first puppy later this month, a bergamasco! My wife grew up with dogs but this is all new to me! I’ve been reading a lot of Cesar Millan books! I’m considering joining Instagram or another photo-sharing social site to share photos of our new dog experience. My Instagram knowledge is rather limited, so this may be a fun way to get up to date on this burgeoning social network. If you’ve got any thoughts on what the best photo apps are, or have any tips and tools, I’d love your input.

Hope to see you at #AEJMC next week! Have a great weekend.

Cheers!
-Matt

photo: CC opensourceway.

Bizarre Chipotle Twitter Behavior and Social Media Brand Identity

chipotle_twitter_adventurrito

Current Events and Social Media

What were those Chipotle Tweets all about? - That’s the question some are asking after a series of bizarre Tweets by the restaurant chain. In a boldly titled article, “How to alienate your Twitter followers: Chipotle staged hack falls flat,” Hayley Tsukayama indicates that Chipotle was trying to ride the tide of other brands that found surprising success (i.e., increases in followers – if #s = success on social media) after being hacked. According to the article, a spokesperson for Chipotle claimed the Tweets were related to a treasure hunt promo the company was working on. To see some of the Tweets, check out this post by BuzzFeed jokingly titled “Either Chipotle doesn’t know how to use Twitter, or they know exactly how to use Twitter” in reference to the 3700 RTs the brand received.

What was the true motive for the Tweets? We’ll never know. The larger question is, was it good for Chipotle? I’m not as critical of Chipotle here as others may be. Clearly, awareness of Chipotle’s treasure hunt promo is lacking and cross-media tie in was ineffective. The “stunt,” executed differently, could have worked very well as part of the promo. To me, the question here is one of social media identity.

What seems to bother people here is that Chipotle acted in a way inconsistent with its brand identity, specifically its social media identity. Chiptole comes across as lighthearted and a little strange (there are talking pigs and chickens on their website) – but it was acting a bit erratic on Twitter.

Let’s keep in mind that those following your brand on Twitter are not going to be aware of what you’re doing in other spaces unless you clearly tell them. Seeing as that can be a difficult thing to do (our attention span is short and we’re not always listening when the Tweets go out) a separate Twitter account for the promo may have been another option. Though this option carries with it some serious limitations, it presents a great opportunity to explore how social media identity is tied up into this.

Remember, your identity is wrapped up in your social profile. And your identity is what others think you are. Your Twitter followers expect you to behave in a way that is consistent with how they perceive your Twitter identity. That is why building that identity – playful, serious, etc., is at the core of the success of a social account. It is easier to create a separate identity (separate Twitter account) that can behave differently than it is to acclimate existing Twitter acquaintances to an aberration or long-term change in personality.  Consider your interactions with others every day. If your good friend who was mild-mannered and easy-going suddenly became the life of the party, you’d wonder if something was wrong. You might say, “I like the old Sally.” It is not to say you don’t like having a friend who is the life of the party. But that role is something you associate with a different friend (personality). It is always much easier to introduce people to someone new than a new you. In this instance, Chipotle could have remained consistent with their existing account.

Of course, why have to try and bring followers to a new account when you’ve done the hard work of building your existing followers? And that is a serious limitation to this alternative and a very good reason why you may not want to build a separate account in a situation like this.

Separate account or no, cryptic and erratic may not be the best way to go on social. At any rate, it gives us a great opportunity to think about social media, identity, audience expectations, and that ever-growing need to stand out in our attention economy.

Experimentation and bravery are needed. And I applaud Chipotle for that. You can’t know until you try. Is the whole thing quite strange? Yes. Is it going to have any real negative impact on the brand? I doubt it. (next week I’ll have a post about another brand who did a great job of doing something different and having great success!)

What do you think about the Chipotle Twitter situation? Is it an inconsistent social media identity that has people talking about this , or is it something else?

Must-watch interviews with social media experts (Snow Day!)

I should be sledding. Shepherd University is closed today and the views from my front and side windows are inviting.

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photo: Snow and our vintage typewriter

As I sip my morning coffee, glad I don’t have to shovel our long, steep driveway, I’m wondering if it is truly March 25th. No matter. Whether you’ve got the day off today for a snow day, spring break, or not, here are some great social media resources you don’t want to miss.

Recently, Don Stanley (@3rhinomedia), social media strategist and professor who teaches social media at the University of Wisconsin-Madision, conducted two great interviews with two social media heavyweights: Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe), founder of the Content Marketing Institute, and Mark Schaefer (@markwschaefer), author of {grow} and a number of social media books.

Snowday-march

photo: out our kitchen window.

Thanks to Don for a wonderful job hosting these, asking great questions, and for sharing these on his class blog. I learned a ton from each. (if the embeds aren’t working, click on the title to go directly to the post on Don’s blog).

Content Marketing with Joe Pulizzi – founder of the Content Marketing Institute

Joe Pulizzi Video (Click the link to watch – WordPress will not allow me to embed. My apologies.)

A few things that stuck out to me from this interview:

  1. Blogging and social media in general is a marathon, not a sprint. Joe discusses how long it took him for his business to become successful through blogging. Many of us get discouraged when we don’t find immediate success.
  2. Don’t use a blanket approach to posting to social networks. Each social network is different. The culture and audience of each network is different and so we must .
  3. We don’t own our social networks. They can be gone tomorrow. It is important to get email addresses for your blog’s followers, so that you can stay in contact with your readers.

Mark Schaefer talks Twitter

Mark Schaefer Video – Click the link to watch – WordPress will not allow me to embed. My apologies.

Takeaway:

  1. Read Mark’s books. That’s what I decided to do after watching this interview. I got my hands on Tao of Twitter and Mark’s new book, which I am absolutely loving: Born to Blog. Both books offer great insights into the culture of social media and how to thrive in it. I will post reviews of each in future posts.

Ok, no sledding for this blogger. Its time to get back to work. It may be a snow day but the AEJMC deadline is fast approaching! Will I be seeing you in DC in August?

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Photo: View over our deck

Photos from this morning courtesy of my awesome wife, Kelin!

As the teenager goes, so goes Facebook.. so goes the social media professor?

FB_logo

Back in January I posted the below Tweet.

My Communication & New Media class was talking about the boom and bust of Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and the “cool hunt” – the tendency of young folks to jump from one trend to the next. (Yes, of course MySpace came up. Interestingly, students this semester hadn’t heard of Friendster).

I have asked the same question every semester since 2008-2009, when I began teaching new media as a grad student at Washington State University. “What is the most popular social network?” The answer has always been Facebook.

This semester the answer was clear. Facebook is on the way out.

Is there a shift coming to social media?

A great article posted to CNET last week titled “Why teens are tiring of Facebook” offers an in depth look as to the social networking giant’s troubles. Many of those same troubles were echoed by my students. They can be summed up in this Tweet I posted to a question I got from @richelecole to my original Tweet as to what was in:

In other words, Facebook:

  • Lacks exclusivity – “Everyone” is on Facebook – and yes, that means Mom, Dad, and the grandparents. There could be nothing less cool.
  • Is too cumbersome – Facebook, the social network that built itself on being sleeker and less chaotic than Myspace, is too complicated for the fast-paced on the go lifestyle. It takes too much time to maintain and participate in. Students said they just didn’t have time for all Facebook demanded of them. Twitter is quick and easy. Instagram is too, and the bonus is – pictures!

It seems my students aren’t the only ones thinking about unfriending Facebook.

As social media professors, are we always part of the cool hunt as well?

In a way. Trying to keep up with changing trends while balancing the many other responsibilities of being a professor may feel sometimes like an unwinnable race. That’s why it is so important that we keep our focus on what truly matters. Teaching students to think.

The tools will change. New trends will emerge. The fundamentals are much less fickle.

I think of them as:

  1. Monitoring: Strategies for identifying, cultivating, monitoring, and analyzing information on the social/real-time web.
  2. Metrics: Strategies for setting goals and what to measure on social media. And measuring them.
  3. Optimization: Strategic use of optimization strategies to maximize potential exposure to communication content online.
  4. Engagement: Strategies for targeting and engaging potential publics online.

When we teach new media, we should always keep in mind that the tool we’re teaching may be gone tomorrow.

It isn’t the tool so much that counts, as understanding the underlying concepts and strategies – the Why. If students learn only two things in my classes they should be: Be Adaptable (apply what you’ve learned to new situations). Be Lifelong Learners. These are platform agnostic skillsets.

Is a shift coming to social media and what does that mean for educators? As an educator, how do you stay current with changing trends in the classroom? What do you emphasize to your students?  Do you disagree with my approach? I would love to hear your thoughts and discuss this important topic further. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Like this post? Please share it.

Cheers!

- Matt

image creds: Facebook logo. This version hosted by MarcoPako Flickr page.

Talking to students about how they present themselves online

February 26, 2013

Over the past few years I’ve noticed an increase in how much students are thinking about how they present themselves online, their professional online identity.

This is good news because according to a CareerBuilder survey, 37% of employers look up perspective employees on social media before hiring. (Personally, I was surprised by this – 37% to me seems a little low). Certainly what we say and do online impacts how others see us.

If you teach social media, you likely follow many of your students on social media. Sometimes I cringe when I see the things some students Tweet.

 

Every semester for the past few years I’ve taken time in class to talk about presenting oneself professionally online.

This semester I decided to go about it a little differently. I decided to go a little more in depth. I am building a concentration of courses in our department that will emphasize strategic social media, and because the Principles of Public Relations class is the first class in the concentration, I decided I want to get students thinking about the professional uses of social media from the get go.

Here’s what I did in my Principles of PR class this semester:

  1. Early on in this semester we talked about being professional online, the fact that many employers look up a potential employee on social media before making a hiring decision, and watched this video about the business of researching potential employees on social media (embedded below). I had them read Dr. Karen Russell’s great list titled “PR Students: What not to Tweet” over at teachingpr.org.
  2. I then had students fill out an in class activity about what being professional online means to them, and how they would want others to see their identity online (see it on Scribd). I photocopied the form and gave a copy back to them. I kept a copy.
  3. I told the students to start using Twitter, if they hadn’t already. (I decide to focus on Twitter, though I’ve come to find that many of our students don’t use or like Twitter. So maybe I should broaden my horizons in the future).
  4. After several weeks, we were discussing public opinion and how the failure of co-orientation between an organization and its publics can lead to misunderstandings of stance on an issue that can harm the relationship. (Chapter 8 of Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations 11th edition) I told the students to: “Write a brief paragraph about how you want others to see you as a professional person who works in your career field choice.”
  5. I then gave them a little homework assignment (on Scribd). They were to  print out tag clouds of their Tweets, their Tweetstats, and their profile and bring them to class the following class.
  6. The following class, I gave students a few minutes to look over the things they’d printed the night before (their stats, profile, etc.) and had them answer some questions (found on Scribd here) about the sort of things they post, and whether what they post reflects how they want to be perceived professionally. We revisited Dr. Russell’s list of what students should not Tweet. Students checked whether they were following Dr. Russell’s guidelines, revisited what they’d written several weeks back about what being professional on social media meant to them, and revisited their statement from the class before about how they want others to see them professionally in their career of choice.

The purpose here was to see if the students identified differences between how they had seen themselves and how they discovered through the exercise how others may see them based on what they post online. Through this, we were able to make a connection to our discussion the class period before about the potential harm brought on by a lack of co-orientation between an organization (the org being the student in this case) and its publics.

Students who weren’t afraid to share what they post on Twitter to the class had their tweets projected on the screen using VisibleTweets.com.

After, we talked for a while about professional behavior online. Many students expressed that they were increasingly conscious of what they post online, particularly out of concern that a future employer might see what they post. When they were younger, some said, they didn’t think as much about what they’d posted. Many felt it was unfair that people were judged for things they’d posted long ago, pointing out that people change, grow, and mature.

I continue to see some students who throw caution to the wind, using social media as a place to vent all those frustrations and share those things they wouldn’t normally say to someone. But overall, I’m impressed by how much students today are considering the implications of what they post on social media. A few short years ago, this was not my experience.

How about you? Do you discuss professional self-representation on social media with your students? If so, what have you found effective? What challenges have you faced? It is a difficult subject and I’m constantly looking for ways to reach students on this issue. Please share in the comments section below. Thanks! :) 

Cheers!

images CC jcoleman (top) (bottom) DavidDMuir

How to Connect with Social Media Educators on Social Media

There are many passionate and talented professors across the world pioneering social media education.

With social media education being a new and emerging field, it is vitally important that those of us teaching social media connect to discuss best practices, experiences, tips, and talk content and curriculum. Here are a few quick ways to join the conversation:

 

Socialmediaprofs-cc

The Web-Savvy Professors List


It may be the definitive guide to social media educators. The The Top 100 Web-Savvy Professors of 2012, put together by BestOnlineUniversities.com, profiles – well, you guessed it: web-savvy professors.  Many of these are champions of social media – whether teaching social media, using it to teach, or both.

 

Social Media Professors on Twitter
There are many social media educators on Twitter. You’ll find many of them on the Best Web-Savvy Professors list mentioned above. A few other ways you can find them are:
Twitter lists
Education By Kerry O’Shea Gorgone (@kerrygorgone) – A list of higher ed folks, some of whom are active members of the Teaching Social Media Marketing & Management LinkedIn group discussed below.

 

Edu by Modern Journalist (@ModernJourno) – List of 196 educators and trainers on social media.

 

Academia by Ph.D. student at UT Austin Curt Yowell (@curtyowell) – 419 academics listed!

 

WVU professor John Jones’s List (@johnmjones) – One of the most comprehensive list of academics I’ve seen with 500 folks (Maybe that’s why it has 37 subscribers!).

 

Academia: Academics that Rock – My own personal list (@mjkushin) of  social media professors and related Tweeters.

 

Hashtags? Here’s 1 to get you started: #teachSMM for teaching social media marketing.

Join a LinkedIn Group
There are a few great LinkedIn social media educator groups I recommend:

 

Teaching Social Media Marketing & Management group – Great group that has just started a monthly Google+ Hangout to discuss social media in the classroom.

 

Higher Ed – this group that is not for educators, per se. It is aimed at connecting “professionals employed by a higher education institution who are actively engaged in social media planning, strategy and execution for a college, university, technical college, community college or college system.” But an interesting group and one I enjoy staying up to date on to get a sense on how universities are using social media in their marketing.

 

Teaching Public Relations – This group is aimed at public relations professional. Given the increasingly vital role of social media in PR, discussion of social media is common. However, there are many other subjects discussed here and social media is not the main topic. May not be of interest to some.

You’ll be surprised to find just how many educators are on social media. And while universities may be failing on the whole to teach social media, there are plenty of people who are changing that.

 

How have you connected with other social media educators?  Have other tips and resources? Please share in the comments section below. Thanks in advance! ☺

photo creative commons by Fora de Eixo